I’ve been pregnant 10 times.
I have 5 living children and 5 angel children.
My journey with multiple losses, the majority of them being between 16-20 weeks, began in March 2007. Our first loss was discovered at a normal monthly check-up where my OB/GYN couldn’t find a heartbeat on the doppler, then on the in-house ultrasound, then at the hospital’s high tech ultrasound. That first loss was so shocking, so sad, so painful, so numbing…. I never thought it would happen again. My doctor even tried to console me by saying it was like being struck by lightning, it never happens twice. But it did… 4 more times over the next 11 years.
Photographs courtesy of the Bartmess Family
Over that time period, I’ve struggled to love and trust my body. I was angry and didn’t know how to express it. Even though I had 3 full-term pregnancies since that first loss, I also had 4 more miscarriages each with their own rollercoaster experience. I was hungry for answers and wanted to get to the root of the issue. We had autopsies on each baby after delivery, but never found a reason for their passing. What do you do when it feels your reality has crumbled? I chose to put my creative energy into something that felt productive and it became my personal mission to help others live in a healthier manner that would somehow prevent the pain and grief of loss. No matter my passion, I learned that you can’t outrun your grief, it will find you in some way or another. Trying to prevent pain is sorta like trying to hold back the Mississippi River, it’s not in my ability or capability, so I started swimming with the current instead of against it. These deep waters of grief have taught me powerful lessons and I expect it will continue to do so.
Recently, it dawned on me that each of my subsequent pregnancies and miscarriages were actual traumatic experiences, individually and collectively. This was difficult for me to come to terms with. I felt deep shame for not being strong enough; believing trauma was a sign of some kind of weakness on my part. Trauma was something that happened to others, to people who had been violated in some way or witnessed violence, not a mom losing her pregnancy and baby. It didn’t mean others were weak for such experiences, but I felt like I was. Every pregnancy after our first loss was anxiety-ridden. I wrestled with the lesson of learning to be grateful for the present moment because the next appointment might change my reality once again. Every delivery, presented a new complex emotional experience, no matter if I got to bring a baby home or not.
The more I studied trauma, the more I realized how deeply impacted I had been by each loss, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It explained my stress levels, my physical challenges, my nervous system that was wound up so tight, and why I carried so much mom/wife guilt when my children or husband would touch me leaving my nerves to feel like they were on fire. It helped me see how my grief was physically manifesting and for some reason seeing that with such clarity has helped me face my reality…. That some of my babies lived and also some of them died. My losses were real. That I never got to bury their bodies didn’t mean I didn’t lose a child. It was like I finally woke up from an 11-year fog. My babies were as real as my body-stored-trauma was trying to express.
Photographs courtesy of the Bartmess Family
Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss are silent traumas that society still doesn’t know how to honor, value, or interact with. It’s tough for others to understand something they’ve never experienced. But, maybe we can connect in understanding that Trauma is something we ALL have experienced in a variety of ways. Our bodies carry both the external and internal scars of those moments. It courses through our veins as we continue to seek safety and resolution. My heart is full of compassion for the unique journey we all must go through in our personal healing. I’m grateful for the time, experience, and perspective that has and will continue to teach me the lessons of living through death.
Give the gift of remembrance to a bereaved family today
If one person reads this & finds comfort, I feel you will find a new consolation for having touched someone who desperately needed your words. XOXO
Dec. 23, 1980 our first son was born when I went into premature labor at 22 1/2 weeks. He was stillborn, too small to survive delivery. Due to rules at that time we had to use a funeral home. It was a blessing in disguise. Two more early miscarriages before a son was born in 1983. Two more early miscarriages, one possibly twins before our 2nd son was born in 1986. One more early miscarriage then a daughter was born in 1989.